Michael Thibodeau, Garrett Mason: Obamacare rollout doesn't inspire confidence in Medicaid expansion

Those who liked the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), are going to love the federal government’s offer to Maine to expand its Medicaid welfare program. And if you’ve been paying any attention to the Obamacare launch, there’s not much to like so far.

These two topics, Obamacare and Medicaid expansion, have dominated the headlines here in Maine recently, and many people assume there’s no connection between the two.

There is. They are one and the same.

As a matter of fact, Medicaid (which is actually welfare) expansion is one of the main components of Obamacare. With the goal of providing universal coverage to all Americans, the Affordable Care Act gives individual states incentives to increase the number of people who are eligible for Medicaid (in Maine, the Medicaid program is called “MaineCare”). The offer from the feds is to pay for 100 percent of Maine’s MaineCare expansion for the first three years. After that, the state of Maine starts picking up a big part of the tab.

Obamacare has come with a lot of promises that have not been kept. The most noteworthy one came from President Barack Obama, himself, who is on record dozens of times proclaiming, “If you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it.” We all now know that’s untrue, as millions of Americans, including tens of thousands here in Maine, have been notified that their insurance policies have been cancelled because they don’t conform to requirements of the ACA.

We were also told that when the ACA health care exchanges went online back in October, Americans would, for the first time, be able to sign up for affordable health insurance. The website has been plagued with problems since it first went online and the troubles continue to this day.

According to media reports, less than 2 percent of the 7 million Americans the federal government expected to sign up in the first month of Obamacare were able to do so. The administration set a self-imposed deadline of the end of November to have the site functioning properly, but problems remain.

Many of those who have been able to successfully navigate the labyrinth that is Obamacare have gotten sticker shock upon discovering how much their new plans were going to cost.

In addition to the inaccessibility issues, there are also increasing concerns about whether the personal information consumers load into the ACA website is secure.

Public approval of Obamacare remains low, with more than half of Americans opposing the law.

All of this brings us back to the issue of what we should refer to as the “Obamacare Medicaid welfare expansion” in Maine. During the past legislative session, Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bill that would have provided “free” health insurance to 70,000 able-bodied Mainers. The Legislature upheld that veto.

But now Democratic leadership is vowing to bring Medicaid expansion back for a vote during the upcoming session that begins in January.

While it is unfortunate that we will have to waste taxpayers’ time and money going over the same terrain again, at least this time we can do it with the benefit of new insight into the ACA and the inability of those who are behind it to keep a promise.

For example, they have told us that after the first three “free” years, the federal government’s share of Maine’s Medicaid expansion would drop to 90 percent, a development that would require Maine to come up with an additional $150 million for every two-year budget beginning in 2020.

That is reason enough to oppose the expansion, but given what’s happening with Obamacare thus far, there is much more cause for concern: are we supposed to believe that the feds will stick to their promise and commit to 90 percent? If it’s less than that, Maine will be on the hook for even more once we’ve committed to putting more of our citizens on welfare.

The central question for us is why should Maine be willing to create more dependence on a government that cannot deliver on its promises?

As we head into the next legislative session and renew this debate on Medicaid expansion, please do not forget that what we will really be voting on is our confidence in Obamacare.

Sen. Michael Thibodeau, R-Waldo, is the Maine Senate Republican Leader. Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Androscoggin, represents Maine Senate District 17.

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Of course, Garrett Mason

I didn't vote for him last time and I'm damn well not going to vote again.

CRYSTAL WARD's picture

The party of NO NO NO

The Republicans continue to sing the same old song NO, NO, NO,
Never offering a plan of their own just NO over and over again
NO--- thousands of Mainers should not have health care insurance
NO-- the working poor and poor in Maine should just, as Scrooge said “die and reduce the surplus population” THEY OFFER NO PLAN TO DEAL WITH THIS CRITICAL HEALTH ISSUE IN MAINE
NO-- the Mainers who would qualify for the new expanded Medicaid should just continue going to the emergency room so the hospitals can pass the costs ,they cannot pay, to the insurance companies and they pass it to us who pay for Health Care to foot the bill !! Remember their bill must be paid .
We are already paying !!! The new plan will cost less and delivers health care to Mainers in need.
It is time for our Republican Representatives to put forth a plan to deal with the uninsured in Maine or move over and get out of the way. Just what are these people supposed to do when ill?
“To promote the general welfare..” is in the Federal and Maine State Constitution.
Don’t both of these people get their health insurance paid by the tax payers in Maine!

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Sen. Thibodeau, congratulations.............

Sen. Thibodeau, congratulations, you made it in just under the gun. I have been racking my brain for days to come up with the most misleading, misinformed and down right wrong interpretation of the Affordable Care Act, so far this year. Here it is, Dec. 31'st, and we have a winner.
First of all your derogatory use of the word "Welfare" speaks volumes of your empathy for the people of Maine who are, shall we say, less fortunate. I love how you insert the term "able bodied", to describe the seventy thousand working poor individuals and families who would benefit from the ACA. This has come to be a trick right out of the Republican play book, to bolster the right wing's ideology that everyone should be able to pull their own weight.
With all the stupid quotes coming out of Washington as well as Augusta, over the past six months or so. It has been difficult to pin down a good example of whats wrong with this country. Your statement, which borders on insulting the poor, simply for being what they are, I feel epitomizes the Republican attitude, and with that, you win the dumbest "letter to the editor" of the year award.
Having won the adoration of us poor and disabled folks here in Maine, I ask just one favor. In the future, should you have any further thoughts you feel are newsworthy, do us a favor, and keep them to yourself, thank you...................


Who can you trust?

So the federal government says it will pay 90% of the Medicaid expansion after three years but you can't believe them. Says who? If the government welches on that promise I can promise you it will be because some Tea Party legislator voted that way. They are the ones who shut down the government to pitch a political tantrum. They are the ones who legislate spending then refuse to raise the debt ceiling to pay for what they already approved. Who was it that reneged on State aid to the cities ? Who was it that reneged on State aid to the schools? The Federal government has done a much better job of keeping its promises than the State of Maine has so maybe that is the program we should be using to help people get health care without billing us all for charity care and throwing them on the city welfare rolls. Finally it is easy to deny health care to people who are only numbers to you. How about visiting with some of these folks who are going without hip operations and kids who are going without treatment for ear infections and maybe you will sound more like you know what you are talking about.

RONALD RIML's picture

Easy answer to your question, Sen. Thibodeau and Mason

"why should Maine be willing to create more dependence on a government that cannot deliver on its promises?"

Because Republicans and Conservatives have adapted a business model which fails to include adequate health care for our population.

Now what was so difficult about that, Buckos????

Care to hop on this forum and link to the proposed Republican Affordable Health-Care Act?? The one other than the de-facto "Get Sick, Go Bankrupt, then Die" which you presently have in place....

I'm not going to hold my breath.

Many Health Care Systems around the world are administered by governments in a professional, economic, and effective manner - more so than our "For Profit" private system. Their efforts actually result in lowers costs and better health outcomes than we experience in the United States.. But one difference - they are not 'For Profit' as is ours, who's motto should best be summed up: "Cure we May, Profit we Must."

- Yes, I know many retort "But so many foreigners come to the U.S. for their health care needs. Conversely, many thousands of Americans travel to foreign countries for their health care needs, which are much less inexpensive and just as professional as at 'Home' - google: "Medical Tourism."

What do Republicans have???


All you've been reduced to is a fleet of propagandist sound trucks blaring the same old canard: "Obama Lied - He said you could keep your insurance if you like it - well, you can't"

Hate to break it to you, but Obama didn't nationalize the Insurance Industry. Had he done so, he would have had the power to 'cancel, or not cancel'. And neither was he on the boards of all these Insurance Companies. THEY were the ones who cancelled all these policies - NOT the Government. Hadn't you noticed? And you are a State Senator?? My, my, my.....

So rather than sigh, lie, and criticize - Propose an alternate program. Run it through the legislative process. Pizzing, moaning, whining, and crying really doesn't become responsible legislators..

You missed something...

"why should Maine be willing to create more dependence on a government that cannot deliver on its promises?"

The Government cannot deliver because the GOP's extreme wing has since 1985 made it their core mission to be sure the government cannot deliver.

RONALD RIML's picture


- "Yes, I know many retort "But so many foreigners come to the U.S. for their health care needs. Conversely, many thousands of Americans travel to foreign countries for their health care needs, which are much less inexpensive expensive and just as professional as at 'Home' - google: "Medical Tourism."

RONALD RIML's picture

"strike" tag doesn't work

so we'll go with this:

"Yes, I know many retort "But so many foreigners come to the U.S. for their health care needs. Conversely, many thousands of Americans travel to foreign countries for their health care needs, which are much less expensive and just as professional as at 'Home' - google: "Medical Tourism."


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